When you think of your favorite brands, chances are your first thoughts will include signature logo images or slogans, such as Amazon's arrow from A to Z. Companies created a distinct trademark (or simply "mark") and then used it consistently across all of their marketing, which is why you immediately think of these identifiers. Formalizing a product or service with a registered mark not only provides necessary legal protection, but also gives businesses a surefire visual tool to connect with consumers. Here's a primer on trademarks and how they can benefit your business.

What is a Trademark?

A trademark is defined as "a word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies your goods and services and distinguishes your brand from competitors" by the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office. A trademark is used to identify goods, whereas a service mark is used to identify services. A trademark grants you the exclusive right to use your mark and prevents competitors from using a mark that is identical to or very similar to yours.

Simply using a name, logo, or slogan in your business provides some level of trademark protection, though these "common law" trademarks are difficult to enforce and only apply in your immediate area. By registering your trademark with your state, you can obtain statewide trademark protection. However, registering your mark with the TPTO provides the strongest and most comprehensive trademark protection.

Federal trademark registration:

  • Creates a public record of the ownership of your trademark
  • Prevents others from registering trademarks that are confusingly similar to yours Grants you the ability to sue in federal court if your trademark is infringed
  • Facilitates the registration of your mark in foreign nations
  • Can be used to prevent the importing of infringing goods
  • You are granted permission to use the registered trademark sign, ®.

While copyright protects original authored works, such as a song, novel, work of art, or database, trademarks protect intellectual property that helps define a brand.

What can be trademarked?

  • Brand names and monikers (for example, both Coca-Cola and Coke are marked)
  • Signs * Noises (like the distinct NBC chimes)
  • Business names * Slogans (like Nike's "Just Do It")
  • Color schemes or color schemes (like the brown of a UPS truck)
    • Smells (yep, smells. Hasbro was granted a smell trademark for Play-Doh in 2018.

What can’t be trademarked?

  • Any mark that is already in use or that is too close to a mark that is already in use
  • Descriptive words that are generic
  • Common phrases or messages
  • Direct religious quotes and passages

To be eligible for federal trademark protection, your mark must be distinct and unlikely to be confused with another trademark. When considering a trademark, consider what you're offering, why it's unique, and what makes it unique. Avoid using generic descriptions of your product or service—the more distinct your proposed mark is, the more likely it will be approved. Prepare to spend a significant amount of time searching the TPTO website for any trademarks that may be considered similar to yours.

Trademarks are extremely specific; your mark will only apply to the type of goods or services for which you seek protection. Other businesses may continue to use your mark for other types of goods or services. "Delta," for example, is a name brand for both an airline and a faucet.

How to Get a Trademark

Obtaining a trademark used to be a paper-intensive process, but the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office has thankfully streamlined the process by making it available online. Be prepared to wait a long time for approval. There are several stages involved, and the TPTO advises applicants to expect a decision within 12 to 18 months, but usually within 4-6 months.

Getting a trademark is broken down into several steps:

Step 1: Identify Your Trademark

After you've decided on a potential trademark, you'll need to conduct some research and determine how you want your mark to be protected. Here's how it's done:

  • Search the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office database to see if the words, designs, items, or services you wish to trademark are similar to those that are already in use.
  • Choose between a normal character mark, a design mark, and a sound mark as your mark format.
  • Specify the precise goods and services to which the trademark will apply, as well as the relevant trademark class, using the ID Master List.
  • Select the filing basis you will use.

Step 2: Submit Your Application

Create an account with the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office, then prepare and submit your application online. If you choose the Standard, the initial trademark fees will be $100 to $300 per class of goods or services.

Step 3: Wait for Approval

If your application meets the filing requirements, the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office will assign it a serial number and forward it to an examining attorney for review. If the attorney discovers problems with your application, you will receive a letter to which you must respond if you want your application to remain active.

You will receive a letter indicating whether your trademark application was approved or denied. If your mark is approved, it will be published in the "Official Gazette," the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office's weekly newsletter. Following publication, any party who believes the mark may cause them harm has 60 days to file an opposition. Your mark will be registered if there is no opposition or if the opposition is resolved in your favor.

Step 4: Complete the Final Paperwork

A Turkish Patent and Trademark Office trademark registration must be kept current for as long as you want to use the mark. To ensure that your registration does not expire, specific documents must be completed, as well as an annual check of the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval (TPTO) system.

Different Trademark Symbols Explained

A trademark can be indicated by one of three different symbols:

  • ™: This is the most popular trademark symbol, and anyone can use it, regardless of registration status. Adding this symbol lets other businesses know you have claimed a name, logo or slogan as your own.
  • ®: Only trademarks that have USPTO approval can use this symbol, which stands for registered trademark.
  • ℠: This symbol is a “service mark.” As its name suggests, it’s used for services only, not products. Just like the ™, you can use this symbol without registering.

Frequently asked questions

Looking for more info? Here are some things we're commonly asked

What are the various types of trademarks?

Trademarks are classified into three types: arbitrary and fanciful trademarks, suggestive trademarks, and descriptive trademarks. Arbitrary and fanciful trademarks are the most powerful, and they protect coined terms as well as marks or words that are not normally associated with them. Suggestive Trademarks are the second most powerful, and they are intended to arouse the consumer's imagination. Finally, the least powerful trademarks, Descriptive Trademarks, describe the goods and services.

What should I trademark?

It is critical to safeguard your company's name. You should also trademark your logo as well as any phrases or slogans that will be used frequently to identify your brand.

Do I need an attorney to file a trademark application?

No, you are not required to have an attorney when applying for a trademark unless you intend to use it outside of Turkey. Having said that, it is strongly advised that you retain one. An experienced attorney can assist you with legal advice and the application process, as well as represent you in all dealings with the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office.

Can I file a trademark infringement complaint?

If you own a trademark, it is your responsibility to enforce it and prevent infringement. Trademarks are not enforced by the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office. If you discover a business using your trademark, the best course of action is to contact a trademark attorney to discuss your rights and the next steps.

What exactly is a dead trademark?

A dead trademark is one that is no longer protected by federal trademark registration. This can happen if the original owner did not file renewals or if a petition to cancel the mark was filed. It is important to note that just because a trademark is listed as "dead" does not mean it is free to use.

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